I used to be the sort of reader that had to finish every single book I started. Never mind if there was zero plot or if the characters grated or if I plain disliked the story – I had to get to the last page regardless.
Now… I just put the book aside. I’m pretty sure it’s partly because I read a lot more ebooks – it feels easier to stop reading when I don’t have the physical book front-and-centre on my bookshelf. I also think lack-of-time and/or abundance-of-choice plays into this – I’ve now convinced myself that I don’t have to spend a couple of hours finishing a book when I have literally hundreds more waiting for me (which is also an ebook thing, admittedly!).
The obvious reason for me DNF’ing a book is that I’m bored – the plot’s not going anywhere, the characters are two-dimensional, etc etc. But it’s also the smaller elements that can turn the book into a DNF. Which makes me sound totally nitpicky, but well, it’s true.
So for example, books I DNF’d this year:
- The one where all the characters were using contractions for names. For every single character. I could just about see Air for Aaron, but Eee for Ian… really? I gave up halfway.
- The one where there were only two siblings in the family, but they were being referred to as the eldest and the youngest. Constantly. I don’t claim to be perfect on grammar myself (far from it if truth be told), but come on, it’s elder and younger unless there was a missing middle child somewhere. I got about halfway through the book, but when I hit “eldest” for the umpteenth time, I decided the story wasn’t worth my heightened blood pressure.
- The one with dialogue tags overkill. If the text includes “X reminds”, “Y agrees”, and “Z exclaims” in the first three paragraphs of dialogue… well, I’m not convinced I’m going to make it through to the last page. And even more so if combined with the POV character thinking of her BFFs by their full names in the first scene. A tone thing perhaps?
- The one where I get a “lack of research” feeling. Which could be as minor as a mention of whistling backstage as a common procedure when there’s a superstition around not doing that. I think this one depends on whether you’re familiar with a topic or not – I suspect that’s why a lot of sport romances work for me (i.e. blatant lack of familiarity with most sports!).
Well, I did say it’s the smaller stuff. I can forgive much if I’m caught up in the story and the characters, but if it’s just a middle-of-the-road story, then it’s the little things that grate.
So tell me, do you DNF books? And if you do, what tips you over the edge?